NDDB to promote use of solar irrigation pumps among farmers

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Just like it has helped create village-level dairy cooperatives across the country, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has drawn up a plan to form solar farmers’ cooperatives in water-stressed states of the country.

“Using our experience in milk cooperatives, we would help farmers form these cooperatives which would work with state governments and power distribution firms. Constituting these farmers’ cooperatives require a lot of effort. We have people in most of the states who can engage with the farmers, train them and help them develop suitable policy framework,” Dilip Rath, NDDB Chairman, said on Wednesday.

Rath was speaking at the sidelines of a NDDB workshop on how to use solar power to augment dairy farmers’ income in the country. “There is already a dairy network in the country which has about 1.7 lakh village level dairy cooperatives to which more than 15 million milk producers are affiliated,” Rath said.

According to him, while it was easy to persuade farmers who use diesel pumps to switch to solar irrigation pumps, convincing farmers who used subsidised grid electricity to move to solar pumps was difficult.

“There is some sort of reluctance on the part of discoms too. NDDB feels that discoms will be more comfortable in dealing with farmers’ collectives rather than individual farmers. This is because there will be single point of evacuation and single point of billing for each of the cooperatives,” Rath said.

Under NDDB’s initiative, one such pilot project was done in Mujkuva village in Anand, Gujarat. The Mujkuva Solar Pump Irrigators’ Cooperative Enterprise, in which 11 farmers were part of, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September last year.

Augmenting incomes

Drawing inspiration from this Mujkuva experiment, in which International Water Management Institute and Tata Trusts played a role, the Gujarat government has already announced an ambitious Suryashakti Kisan Yojana (SKY) which would not only enable farmers in the State to generate solar power for meet their irrigation requirements as well as to sell the surplus power to the grid to augment their incomes.

As per the scheme, farmers having existing electricity connection will be given solar panels as per their load requirements. The State and Central governments will give 60 per cent subsidy on the cost of project. The farmer is required to put in 5 per cent of the total cost, while 35 per cent will be provided to him as an affordable loan with interest rates of 4.5-6 per cent. The scheme is for 25 years and during the first 7 years, farmers would be given Rs 7 per unit of electricity they fed in (Rs 3.5 by discom and Rs 3.5 by the State government). Subsequently, the feed-in-tariff will drop to Rs 3.5 per unit.

The Maharashtra government too plans similar schemes in its Jalgaon and Kolhapur districts. “The State government has asked us to help them forming village level solar farmers’ cooperatives in villages in these districts, which we are going to do. We hope that major water-stressed States like Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka also launch similar initiatives,” Rath said.

The NDDB has also installed concentrated solar thermal technology in 15 dairy processing plants in Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat and Karnataka to meet a part of their heat demand.


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